Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gentoo Penguins

Brian Skerry, Antarctica Expedition

Although I had seen a number of penguins in the first few days of this journey, I really got to see penguins when we landed at a Gentoo nesting colony in a location called Culverville. The numbers of Gentoo penguins on the peninsula have been steadily increasing in recent years, largely due to the fact that more land is becoming available with the retreating glacial ice. Gentoos nest on rocks, not ice, and recent climate change has actually helped to increase their stocks.

Gentoo penguins on ice. (Photo: Brian Skerry)

Penguins on the snow. (Photo: Brian Skerry)

I landed by Zodiac on the beach and immediately saw penguins walking at the water's edge. I hiked up the side of a mountain to where the land leveled out a bit and found penguin central! Everywhere I looked I could see the little black and white birds waddling around. Thousands of Gentoos were in this location, with tightly grouped individual colonies scattered over the mountainside.

Gentoo penguin with a chick. (Photo: Brian Skerry)

I have photographed a number of bird species in my career, but nothing quite like this. As anyone visiting the New England Aquarium knows, you just cannot get enough of penguins! These little birds have an awful lot of personality and I spent hours just watching their behaviors and making pictures. They showed no fear of our presence among them and simply went about their daily routines of nest building, caring for eggs or chicks and swimming in the frigid seas.

Gentoo penguins with icebergs. (Photo: Brian Skerry)

The sky was overcast with some patches of blue and from my high perch I looked out over an ocean filled with icebergs. It was a spectacular setting. The wilderness of mountain, sea, snow, ice and penguins was breathtaking. We were the only people for hundreds, maybe thousands of miles around and we were enjoying an encounter of a lifetime.

- Brian

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